Two great films about Cuba: One Environmental, One Musical

powerI saw 2 great films this past week. The first, The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil, is a documentary about how Cuba dealt with a sudden unavailability of oil when the Soviet Union collapsed in the 1990s. Because of this event, Cuba became to the first country to experience literally overnight what we will all eventually face globally: Peak Oil, the point when the burgeoning use of oil to fuel our civilization’s growth can no longer be sustained by dwindling supplies of oil and our societies will have to find radical new ways to adapt. The film shows frightening and sobering statistics like the fact we are consuming 5 barrels of oil for every 1 barrel we find today. Mankind’s dependence on fossil fuels which took millions of years to form but are already being used beyond its peak supply within less than a century of the modern age. Optimistically, Cuba’s government and its people took drastic measure into their own hands. They undertook radical adaptation of their cities, with urban gardening, and reorganized their agricultural land, to make farms smaller and more efficient, with organic means, not dependent on oil-dependent tractors and mass fertilizer. Infant mortality and adult longevity still remained on par with the US during this crisis and we can all learn a lot from how Cuba learned to be less dependent on oil.

I saw the documentary at the Occupy Venice Film Series and you can watch the documentary free online. It should be required viewing for everyone, especially in our schools, as our young people are the ones who will be dealing with the fallout of generations of oil dependency coming to an end, as the world population continues to soar. As part of their presentation of this documentary, Occupy Venice shared many community projects it organizes to promote radical shifts of thinking, good stewardship of our communities and sustainable practices, such as teaching local high school students how to garden and how to grow using aquaponics. In this age of Facebook and Twitter hyperactivity, for those of you with short attention span, here’s a great 5 minute history lesson on our oil dependency and why we need to think very seriously about a post-carbon world.

The second movie, La Sesión Cubana, featuring Italian megastar Zucchero in concert, had its US premiere at the Los Angeles Italia film festival in Hollywood. Zucchero is known for blending his rock and roll and blues music with other genres and his career spans over 4 decades, with collaborations with Joe Cocker, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eric Clapton and Miles Davis, Sting, Luciano Pavarotti, Andrea Bocelli, BB King, Bono, Elton John, Brian May and so many more! The film is named after his latest album, which blends Italian, American and Cuban musical styles and practically shows the entire concert he gave to an audience of 70,000 in Havana, Cuba this past December. Interspersed between songs are interviews about his love and appreciation for Cubans, their history and culture, and their high level of musicianship.

He worked with a lot of great Cuban musicians on the album and after its release in 2012, Zucchero returned to the island to give them a grand concert on the scale of massive shows typical in Europe and America, but never before done on a small island, where as the first movie can attest, they still deal with power issues. Zucchero himself was in attendance at the premiere and explained how putting together such a big show under daunting circumstances was an important gesture of gratitude and thanks to the Cuban people. Watching the movie, I couldn’t help grooving to the music in my seat, so I spent the rest of the movie standing and dancing in the aisle…the music is that infectious!

This was the 2nd year the Los Angeles Italia film festival included a big after party and with Hollywood heavyweights like Al Pacino and Harvey Weinstein attending the festival, they aim to make their festival the pre-Oscar party of Hollywood. Members of his band and great blues musicians from LA put on a fun performance at the party and Zucchero joined them for a song.

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